Building a Better Breakfast

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Getting veggies in to breakfast Photo by Rachel Whitley

Today’s guest post is from Rachel Whitley, certified personal trainer. Rachel married one of my favorite high school guy friends and so I’ve had the pleasure of claiming her as my friend too. I love how she makes eating balanced meals so approachable and simple.

Building a Better Breakfast

I know I don’t have to tell you breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Personally, I love breakfast because I love breakfast food. Hot coffee with whole cream, toasty buttered waffles, and perfectly scrambled eggs are just a few of my favorite things.

But almost as much as I love the glorious fatty carby combos that are somehow only deemed acceptable on a breakfast plate, I love the way eating breakfast in the morning makes me feel. The ritual of it.

Maybe that sounds silly, but it’s true. Every culture has its own unique spin on the perfect breakfast plate: from cold cuts and sliced cheeses, to eggs simmering in a pan with hearty chunks of tomato, to thin crispy wafers followed by steaming cups of espresso.

Breakfast foods seem to be specially reserved for that small window of time between waking and working, and so maybe they have some special significance in setting the pace of our day.

Building a Better Breakfast 2For me, choosing those first foods each morning is kind of an opportunity to renew my commitment to my health. As someone with a history of disordered eating followed by years of chronic pain, I haven’t always been able to enjoy the foods that I ate.

Too often, meals were shrouded in guilt or even fear. After years of anxiety over which foods would set off another wave of sickness, sometimes eating very little or nothing to avoid pain, the freedom to eat foods I truly love is a wonderful gift — and breakfast foods are at the top of my list!

It doesn’t hurt either that I know what the research says: eating a healthy breakfast is linked to higher consumption of fruits and vegetables, lower risk of obesity, and even good grades.

It also helps ward of the dreaded mid-morning slump — a crash in low blood sugar that can lead to junk food cravings and make us more likely to make poor food choices throughout the day. Sounds like a win win! But what does a healthy breakfast look like?

What a healthy breakfast looks like

Grocery store breakfast food aisles are stocked with things like granola, cereal, cereal bars, and toaster pastries, foods that, whatever their nutritional qualities, are more like a snack than a meal (which may be why so many of us find ourselves irritable and hungry long before the lunch hour rolls around!).

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The truth is, breakfast should look like any other healthy meal: a palm-sized portion of protein, a cupped handful of carbohydrate-dense foods, a thumb-sized serving of fat, and a hearty helping of fruits and veggies.

If that sounds like a lot of food — if you’re a restrictive dieter or calorie counter — it is! But sound nutrition is about addressing deficiencies, not issuing ultimatums. So many of us are consumed with what we “can’t” or “shouldn’t” eat, when the key to good health is actually eating more of a wider variety of foods.

What that means is, you can still have your favorite granola. Just don’t stop at adding a cup of milk and call it meal. Try it with a scoop of yogurt on top of half a grapefruit with a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds or layered with a green smoothie and topped with slivered almonds and coconut.

It’s important for you to know, resolving to eat a better breakfast doesn’t mean abandoning your favorite stand-bys. If you are a person who can make grand resolutions and consistently follow through with them, I salute you! But most of us need to ease into things. Which is why I encourage you to add to instead of take from from your diet. The secret to doing this… is the side dish.

“Building a Better breakfast: ‘I encourage you to add to instead of take from from your diet!’ -Rachel Whitley

Personally, I love the classics — eggs and bacon, thick slices of country ham, pancakes, french toast, and biscuits are favorites that show up pretty frequently on my table. But I eat those things in moderation, rather than letting them be the bulk of my calories, and I get creative with my sides.

Getting Veggies into Breakfast

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Adding spinach to a smoothie or egg dish isn’t the only way to get veggies into breakfast. Overall, I focus on creating a colorful plate with lots of variety. Some days that means adding a scoop of leftover sweet butternut squash to my egg scramble or having my fried eggs on a bed of wilted spinach. Remember I said variety was the key to healthy eating? Having a fridge load of leftover roasted and sautéed vegetables doesn’t hurt either!

Feta, roasted beets, and arugula actually pair beautifully with crispy, salty bacon. Roasted asparagus goes nicely with poached eggs and chunked avocado. And crispy potatoes and brussel sprouts go well with really any meal.

In short, I’m not afraid to enjoy my favorite breakfast flavors, but I get creative with how I serve them, and combine them in fresh new ways! Who says salad isn’t breakfast food? (15 Breakfast Salad ideas)

I’m of the mind that food should be enjoyable, first and foremost. Comfort foods are called that for a reason! Food can have a tremendous influence over our moods and attitudes, and you don’t have to be an endocrinologist to take advantage of that. Maybe just start by beginning your day with foods that nourish the body and bring you a little bit of joy. It is such a simple way to care for yourself, but also to celebrate your life, and maybe even enjoy each day a little more.

3 Steps to a Better Breakfast

  1. Balance your plate with a palm-sized portion of protein, a cupped handful of carbohydrate-dense foods, a thumb-sized serving of fat, and a hearty helping of fruits and veggies.
  2. Expand your definition of “breakfast food” to include vegetables other than just spinach or avocado.
  3. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

These posts may help too as you try to build a better breakfast:

How to Grocery Shop Like an Adult
Clean Eating with the Dirty Dozen
Top 10 Food Rules

Building a Better Breakfast 5Rachel Whitley is an ISSA certified personal trainer who offers fully personalized fitness programs combined with online accountability and support. Her passions include pre and postnatal fitness, practical nutrition for busy families, and emotional wellness. When she’s not helping you be your healthiest, you can find her going on nature walks with her one year old daughter and laughing with her husband. You can follow her on Instagram @raesuz


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